Review: “Just Listen” by Mark Goulston

Someone once commented, “Business would be good, if it weren’t for the people.”

It’s a bit funny, both in its irony and its awful truth. Other people can be so hard to deal with sometimes.

Recommended Reading: “Just Listen” by Mark Goulston

Recently, I listened to an episode of the Harvard Business Review IdeaCast. Dr. Mark Goulston, a psychologist turned business coach, was talking about how communication tactics developed for FBI hostage negotiators can help the rest of us in getting through to anyone. I was intrigued by some of the ideas he discussed. When he shared a story about how he got through to an entirely disengaged client, as a business consultant needing to do the same, I was hooked.

Immediately I ordered a copy of his book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone (2010, AMACOM). And I wasn’t disappointed.

Just Listen is packed with practical suggestions and real life stories that will help you get through to others in nearly every kind of situation imaginable, from how to handle the disinterested to those who actively oppose you. And even how to get through to your toughest, most obstinate adversary—yourself.

In each of these situations, Dr. Goulston says, the same strategies apply to build empathy, de-escalate conflict, and gain buy-in. The key is to move people through the persuasion cycle:

  • From resisting to listening
  • From listening to considering
  • From considering to willing to do
  • From willing to do to doing
  • From doing to glad they did and continuing to do so

According to Goulston, getting people to move through the cycle “is not what you tell them, but what you get them to tell you.” Hence, the title—Just Listen.

Active listening to build genuine empathy is a difficult skill to develop and Goulston has put together an excellent aid that can make your business or personal life good again—even with the people.

Comment below: What are some listening skills you use to develop empathy?

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